Challenged, Gov. Dapo Abiodun Maintains Focus

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With six months in the saddle, shadowy crisis entrepreneurs and opponents of Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun are trying to distract him from his official duty. However, Abiodun is determined to fast-track change in the state. Louis Achi reports

Democracy would lose its defining egalitarianism if it foreclosed the free expression of viewpoints by its adherents – including often unreasoned perspectives by forces that apparently seek to diminish and divide. Against this backdrop, public communicators who by dint of self-discipline and diligent logic have achieved that delicate, firm balance between researched opinion that informs and leverages society and negative commentary that diminishes and stunts should be appreciated.

Going forward, it would then appear that Ogun State, under its popularly elected chief executive, has come under the cross-hair of out-of-job hit men fronting disgruntled stakeholders and deploying clearly flawed logic and parameters to diminish the significant grounds covered by the administration. Many believe that these failed proxy propagandists and ‘specialists in failure,’ seeking political rehabilitation could do better by plying their quirky trade in less sophisticated environments.

In reality, the first six months of a governor’s tenure is equal to about six per cent of a possible two-term, eight-year regime span. Interestingly, the opening stretch of an administration has become the barometer for measuring a state chief executive’s governance capability and direction. If such assessment is guided by objectivity and fairness – not venom and cant – it should enjoy wide acceptability. The emerging consensus is that the attacks on Governor Dapo Abiodun lack objectivity and fairness.

Taking an analytical view of a task before setting sail is a defining feature of genuine leadership. That was what Governor Dapo Abiodun, the fifth democratically elected chief executive of the state did on assuming power.Deploying a crystal-clear vision grounded in commitment to service, the focus of the administration encapsulates both the enablers and pillars. These include good governance, security, ICT/Digital transformation, enabling business environment, agriculture and food/general security, health, education, power, housing, sports development, road infrastructure, environmental and physical planning, among others. In concert, these represent the driving forces for effective governance, efficient and smooth service delivery.

Governor Abiodun captured these in his vision statement: “To give Ogun State focused and qualitative governance and to create the enabling environment for a public private sector partnership, which we consider as fundamental to the creation of an enduring economic development and individual prosperity of the people of Ogun.”

It is noteworthy that Governor Abiodun declined to throw tantrums over the extant challenges, including the huge debt profile his government inherited from the previous administration, declining to toe the line of traditional politicians who have made that their first act.

Taking an objective walk through Abiodun’s governance trajectory in his last six months in office is indeed quite revealing. Just last week, Ogun State was awarded “The Most Improved State on Security,” by the Business Day Research and Intelligence Unit and “The Best State in ICT Penetration and Adoption,” by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. These awards essentially recognize and fete the governor on repositioning the state in the critical focus areas he identified during his campaign and inauguration. There is more.

The governor has initiated the ongoing rehabilitation of 236 primary school and primary health-care centres across the State and approved the promotion of teaching and non-teaching staff in all public primary and secondary schools across the state. He has also ensured that the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) issue needlessly started by the immediate past administration has been resolved, so much that the school has matriculated a good number of students. His studied interventions in the education sector did not leave out the iconic Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE), which had been abandoned over the years.

On the crucial health front, Abiodun has ensured that the General Hospital in Ilaro, which was in a terrible state, received a facelift, while he equally made an order for critical equipment to be delivered to the hospital and the State Hospital in Ijaiye, Abeokuta. He has also ensured recruitment of all needed medical personnel for all cadres at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital and seen to the commencement of a medical outreach across the state.

Only those unfamiliar with development trends in Third World countries will not appreciate the impact and difference social welfare programmes can make. Through the launching of the Oko’wo Dapo loan programme, the governor has empowered market women with an interest- free loan. A similar gesture was extended to the widows as well.

He has in addition, signed Executive Orders, to the effect of establishing three councils and agencies including the Ogun State Investment Agency and also forwarded the Ogun State PPP bill to the House of Assembly. Job provision got a boost, enhanced by the recently launched Ogun Jobs Portal. This platform provides the government with a better understanding of the unemployment and under-employment rate in the state and also serves as a better tool for combating this challenge in a more refined and organized manner.

Still on tweaking the investment environment, the initiatives of the Governor Abiodun administration signal a total break from what has hitherto obtained in the Gateway State. Some of these include: Amendment of the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA)/Ogun Invest Bill; Establishment of Ogun State Business Environment Council. This is to improve and streamline internal processes towards achieving better scores in the Ease of Doing Business ranking and Establishment of the Enterprise Development Agency (EDA). This is for capacity building and facilitation of financing access to support the MSME sector.

Others include Executive Order for the Ogun State Economic Transformation Project Implementation Structures (as part of the requirements for the establishment of Project Steering Committee (PSC), Project Implementation Unit (PIU) for the $250m World Bank loan); Initiation of a creative arts and entertainment hub in conjunction with Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility Limited (SANEF); Business Roundtable with CEOs and Business Executives of the organized private sector and others.

In the last six months, the job portal has advanced the recruitment of 1,500 teachers to a second stage. This is no wild imagination, as applicants themselves handle their own applications and get feedback accordingly. The word out there is that Governor Abiodun is a man of the people, as he also ensured that so far, 10,000 out-growers under the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, were drawn from the Ogun State Job Portal. Consequently, Ogun State has been adopted as a model state having allocated land to about 10,000 out-growers who were unemployed there by turning them into agripreneurs by matching them with Anchors (off takers) that signed a forward off-take contract.

The governor without much ado ordered the Procurement of 100 4X4 Pick-Up Patrol Vehicles & 200 Motor Bikes for the state law enforcement agencies and sourcing of helicopter from the Presidency for aerial surveillance within his first three months on the saddle. He has also initiated the amendment of the Security Trust Fund (STF) Law & Constitution and inauguration of the STF Board.

Furthermore, there is indeed a bright future for the continued industrialisation of Ogun State with the smooth relationship that Governor Abiodun has with the private sector. Interestingly, Ogun State has always benefitted from the push factor of its proximity to Africa’s 5th largest economy, Lagos. It is then not surprising that Governor Abiodun’s administration has deployed conscious efforts to pull investors to the Nation’s Gateway State.
Even before the formal interaction with private investors which the governor had in Abeokuta, the private sector have shown significant interest in the local production of food items and even the provision of certain infrastructure since his administration came on board.

Within six months of the current Ogun State administration, there has been for instance, a heavy presence of the Ogun Public Works Agency (OGPWA) across the State. Next month, the State Government will be commissioning two roads in Otta, linking Lagos to Ogun, to provide the much needed alternative for commuters and transporters.
The foregoing has linkages with the administration’s infrastructure and utilities intervention. Here construction and rehabilitation of township roads in all 3 senatorial districts across the State; Commencement of the Energy Sector Reforms; Establishment of Ogun State Waste Management Agency; Establishment of Government Delivery Unit for Infrastructure and more are on the cards.

A dimension to Governor Abiodun’s strenuous efforts to ensure human security and promote inclusive development are often not sufficiently understood and appreciated. Human security forms an important part of people’s wellbeing and is therefore an objective of development. Lack of human security has adverse consequences on economic growth and thereby on development of any social entity. In effect, policies towards security may become one part of development policy because in so far as they enhance security, they will contribute to development; and policies towards development may become part of security policies because enhanced development increases security. Hence the connections suggest a quite radical revision of both security and development policies.

Abiodun has adroitly addressed these interlinking complexities and delivered a winning formula in Ogun State. It’s then not surprising that many correctly believe he deserves the warmth and support of his constituents and key stakeholders. No wonder he is getting them – notwithstanding skulking, shadowy crisis entrepreneurs.